(Okay, maybe he’s more of a tri-clops.)
And then there’s this thing:
The film was produced under the banner of the Bohra Brothers, a team comprised of director Shreeram Bohra and his brother, producer Ramkumar Bohra. Like the Wadias before them, the Bohras were responsible for a number of low budget Indian stunt films, including the Dara Singh version of Hercules and the awesome sounding Doctor Shaitan, about a mad scientist who tries to conquer the world with an army of atomic zombies. In the best spirit of this type of filmmaking, the Bohras infuse their oft-told tale with a lot of funky energy, from the inclusion of a go-go dancing blood cult to the frequent use of the Surfaris’ “Wipe Out” as musical accompaniment to the fight scenes. As can be seen from the screengrabs above, the brothers also don’t scrimp on the cut-rate special effects thrills – provided, this time around, by cinematographer/fx man B. Gupta – making sure that, in addition to the beasties already mentioned, we get more than our fair share of flying carpets, flying horses, spectral sorceresses, free-floating heads, and magically appearing wrestlers. The boys even throw in a talking dog for good measure.
Visual magic aside, one of the things I enjoyed most about The Thief of Baghdad – coming to it as I did fresh from watching Dara Singh’s acting debut in King Kong – is seeing how comfortable Dara had become in his role as movie star by the time of making it. No longer just relegated to stunts and mute flexing, he now gets to woo the leading lady and even has a couple of songs picturized on him, all the while projecting an effortless charisma. He even seems comfortable hamming it up through the many comic masquerades the plot requires him to undertake, including one pretty chilling instance of drag.
While it certainly has it’s fair share of visible seams, the film gets by to a large extent by way of a lot of audacious flash and color. My favorite aspect of its set design was the abundance of crazy looking giant idols, a welcome sight for me in any pulpy Bollywood adventure. Check out a few examples:
With a fast pace, perky tunes, popping color and a spirit of reckless fun, The Thief of Baghdad is a movie that’s easy for me to recommend. If for nothing else, see it for the genie and cyclops battle, Helen’s climactic knife dance, and Dara Singh looking like he’s having the absolute time of his life, whether he be flinging a bad guy over his head, crooning a love ballad, or queening in up in a veil and gown.
Moti sez: “I’m gonna tell all my bitches to see this movie!”